theguardian: by Humaira Patel —
Speaking to teenage girls from east London showed me that too many are left feeling that no one is listening to them
An EDL protest in Tower Hamlets in 2011. 'We live in the East End, where the EDL and Britain First take great pride in marching through our streets to remind us of how unwelcome we are in our own homes.
three young girls left the security of their home and are thought to have flown to a war zone. Many wonder why any teenager, who should be focused on education, hanging out with friends and starting relationships, would travel to join Islamic State (Isis). All the liberties they had will be stripped away from them and they will become very young wives, mothers or even martyrs. The question we find ourselves asking is short, but important: why? Why are they thought to be going to join a terrorist group in Syria when life is so much better in the UK?ast week
Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana were just like me: young, Muslim students from east London. They were part of my community, but sadly they were led astray by people with no morals. They fell prey to a form of virus spreading through the internet, brainwashing young women and men in the name of religion, directed by a bunch of radicals working in the human resources department for Isis. They lure young women with talk of companionship and heaven, a promise that makes me wonder if they really know much about their religion: when did killing innocent beings ever get anyone into heaven?
It’s either ignorance at its finest or just utter evil, I can’t decide. But what I am sure of is that they’re twisting and bombarding teenage girls in my community with Isis propaganda – distributed via state-of-the-art Silicon Valley software, while railing against westernisation. They advertise Syria like Disneyland, offering teenagers a chance to be “princesses” of the Islamic state, promising love and fun, leaving the victims with two choices: a plane ride to Syria and heaven, or the western world and hell.
Many will assume that what has happened happened because these young women are Muslims, and Isis is supposedly Muslim, so religion must be at the core of this. But Islam is a religion of peace and unity, and growing up in London surrounded by all the peaceful Muslims of the East End, these young women must have known that too. I think something beyond religion is also playing a part.
Could they have gone somewhere else for support? Yes, there are organisations offering support to young people, but would they really understand the situations of these increasingly marginalised women? Are there really the support networks out there to help potentially radicalised young people come back into the mainstream, or are there just people whose hidden roles are surveillance and control? These are the questions young people in similar situations face, and many have little faith in the institutions that claim to support them. From schools to police and politicians, Britain doesn’t seem to have much luck supporting vulnerable young people right now.They grew up in a Britain that is filled with Islamophobia, where people seem to constantly speak ill about their faith. Sometimes, the non-stop criticism and offence can make people hang on to their religion more and more stringently, and get so into religion that they fail to differentiate between right and wrong. Instead, they become paranoid and defensive and start listening to Isis’s propaganda department.
I spoke to many teenage girls from around Tower Hamlets and Hackney while undertaking a peer-to-peer research project with Oxford University over the last year, and the story I was told was overwhelmingly that young women in east London felt like no one was listening to them, that no one really cared about their opinions. They felt undervalued and a bit separated from the parts of society that had any influence. Compare that with what Isis claims to offer; it says it will make teenage girls from east London a part of its “cause”, valuing them and their input into society through child bearing and wife duties.
Given the predominantly negative tone of the media portrayal of young Muslim women from the East End, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising they feel that way. We are surrounded by negativity, the British press paints a portrait of us as dangerous and disconnected. East London is where poverty is high, east London is where people are barely educated, east London is where there is lots of crime … it goes on. Surrounded by all of these stereotypes and misconceptions, would you feel content and welcome in Britain, or would Syria again start to look like a better option? Take, for example, the proposed counter-terrorism and safety bill, I wonder if that will really help the few who are vulnerable to becoming radicalised or further fuel their fear.
Young black and minority ethnic women are always under-represented, no matter what measure you look at. As young people, we can’t vote, we’re stereotyped as delinquents, and an easy target for government cuts. As women, we suffer from sexism and misogyny, we are harassed and cat-called by men, and we know we will earn less in the workplace. As Muslims we suffer Islamophobia, with people saying horrible things about our religion. And we live in the East End, where theEDL and Britain First take great pride in marching through our streets to remind us of how unwelcome we are in our own homes.
Maybe we can stop young people like Shamima, Amira and Kadiza leaving this country if we give them proper support, especially those in vulnerable situations, if we present them with equal chances and if we value them. Maybe then they will stay, maybe then they will feel at home here. Radicalisation may end when equality begins.
Origional Post here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/24/muslim-girls-isis-teenage-east-london?CMP=share_btn_fb